Sleek, Stylish, Savage And Sweet

Ford’s Ted Ryan stops by to discuss the world’s fastest pony

Ted Ryan joined Ford Motor Company recently after working with Coca-Cola for more than 20 years. (Photo source: @TedRyan64 via Twitter

She’s a beauty. She’s fast. She’s the car every kid dreams of.

That’s right. The Ford Mustang is sexy, intimidating and fast. But what makes it special?
What are the ins and outs of this pony that make it a force to be reckoned with on the road?

The Mustang, which debuted in 1962 as a concept, has gone through plenty of makeovers throughout the last 58 years. From its traditional American sports car look to a European appearance in the 1980s, the Mustang remains one of the most popular options for those who live, breathe and eat speed.

As Ford continues to modernize its precious pony, its preparing to unleash the Mach-E, an all-electric version of this sports car. It will have the same gorgeous look that the gasoline-powered machine has, and it’ll be as efficient as ever before. And it will, of course, still have the iconic front grille that is synonymous with the Mustang brand.

Ford Motor Company’s Ted Ryan, the Blue Oval’s archives and heritage brand manager, discussed his excitement about the future of the Mustang, what makes the pony unique and why it’s been the trend-setter for all sports car for more than half a century. Ryan, who previously served as Coca-Cola’s image historian for more than two decades, is now one a master archivist at Ford.

How was the Mustang originally conceptualized?

The Mustang was the result of the time and place. Take yourself back to the ’60s and the massive changes that were taking place in America with a younger, better educated and more affluent demographic. The idea behind the Mustang was Ford looking at this new environment and testing different cars. There was a great speech given by Lee Iacocca at the time, looking at the market. They knew exactly what they wanted, so they started thinking of new concepts, like the Mustang I, which was a stylish and sporty two-seater.

The Mustang II was a prototype that was popular on college campuses as well. They were getting the demographic they wanted with these cars as they unleashed these sleek, stylish, sporty cars with back seats.

They brought in 50 families with two kids. They didn’t tell them anything about the car. They told them what the price was, which at the time, was incredibly cheap. The 50 couples were hooked with it immediately and once they found out the price that they can rationalize why they should buy the car.

2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 (Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

How did the Mustang grow to become this traditional, American vehicle?

The Mustang is considered part of the pony class, and it’s called the pony class because of the Mustang. It’s a small, stylish consumer or performance car. The beauty of the Mustang is that you could accessorize it however you wanted to. You could turn it into the full sports car or you can leave it with the main configuration package. It looks cool and it looks like a car you want to own. When you put a Shelby engine in it or some of the other things, you can make it look fast and stylish. With the initial 289 engine, it was a fun car to drive. Eighty-one percent of all cars were ordered with radios, so 19 percent didn’t have radios. From its time and place, plus the youthful market, it really took off. The demand was so high that we had to build a third factory to meet the demand. To hit a million sales in the first year and a half is astounding the way it was embraced in the American public.

You mentioned Shelby, and you certainly can’t talk about the Mustang without discussing Carol Shelby’s legacy with Ford. How did he help the Mustang brand grow?

They reached a different audience. What Shelby did with the car—with an increased engine, the styling, the GT, the GT 350—he reached out to the enthusiasts that wanted a fast car. Ford was known for performance simultaneous to this by racing at Le Mans, winning at Daytona and winning in NASCAR. They called it the performance package. Shelby touched our audience that the standard Mustang wasn’t going to do it. It was appealing to a different audience than the original Mustang was. It widened the appeal of the Mustang to renew clout. There was a performance model of the Mustang with Carol Shelby’s fingerprints all over it, and he was a master.

What specs does the Mustang have now compared to its competition?

The Mustang, throughout the decades, appeals to each generation overtime because of A) the look, B) the performance and C) you’re buying into a lifestyle. You’re part of the Mustang culture. There’s nothing the competition can do to be part of the culture.

When the Mustang was first created, did Ford realize a whole culture was being created?

I 1,000 percent know it because Lee Iacocca essentially said that. They knew they were creating a new pony class of cars, and they knew it was appealing to the demographic they were after.

What can people expect to see for the Mustang brand in the future?

I think it will be refreshed over time. I don’t think they’ll ever do the massive change they did like the box body. I think every generation of Mustang will have the core elements that makes you know it’s a Mustang, whether it’s electric, hybrid or whatever powertrain is dropped into it.

Joseph Wolkin
Joseph Wolkin is the editor of the Levittown Tribune, Syosset-Jericho Tribune and Anton Media Group's automotive special section and county news section. A graduate of Stony Brook University, Joseph has been published in dozens of publications. He is the author of Grandma: The Story Of A Boy And His Grandma.

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